For more than two decades, much of the Christian world has been turning its gaze toward the 10/40 Window. Increasingly the North American evangelical church, the richest church in the history of the world, has been redirecting its missionaries and other missions resources toward the darkness within the this area of the globe. The goals are highly commendable, but are these methods prudent?
Argentine-born evangelist Luis Bush coined the phrase "10/40 Window" in 1989. The Joshua Project currently defines the 10/40 Window as those 69 countries that sit between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This is the heart of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It has been estimated that 90 percent of the 4.4 billion people living in the 10/40 Window are unevangelized; yet only 10 percent of our global missionary force serves there.
Why Not the West
According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, in 2010 the U.S. sent out 127,000 of the world's estimated 400,000 missionaries. It is wonderful to see U.S. churches accepting their role as senders. However, missionaries sent from the United States may not be the answer to opening the 10/40 Window.
In the current geo-political environment the United States and its citizens are not favorably viewed by a majority of the governments in the 10/40 Window countries. Of the 10 countries in the world that are classified as hardest for U.S. citizens to receive visas, seven of those are located in that area. In much of the 10/40 Window, missionary visas are simply not granted to foreigners.
The U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings and recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel in 23 of the countries. The Open Doors World Watch List also counts the top 10 most dangerous countries for Christians in the world within the 10/40 Window.
Women account for a disproportionately large percentage of U.S. missionaries, with single women outnumbering single men 4 to 1 on the mission field. While our culture views the involvement of women in missions as a blessing, much of the rest of the world disagrees with us. In fact, many of the cultures contained within the 10/40 Window are hostile to women—especially Western women.
The United States and its missionaries are simply not welcome in much of the 10/40 regions. But this doesn't mean Americans should fold up our missions tents and ignore the billions of unsaved in these parts of the world. Jesus promised us hard times: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11). John Piper echoed this same sentiment when he wrote, "If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full." Nobody said missions was easy. Still, there may be a better approach.
Sending from the Global South
In recent decades we have seen an eruption of evangelical churches in Latin America and Southern Africa. New churches and individual conversions are emerging in the Global South. Many of these newer churches now have a generation or two of spiritual maturity and are sending out their own missionaries.
As churches in the Global South have developed, many U.S. missionaries and churches have changed their approach to these regions and are beginning to transition into supporting roles. Churches in Latin America and Southern Africa are now seeking theological resources, biblical training, and assistance in forming seminaries. In many of these countries, U.S. missionaries are focusing more on discipleship and theological training.
Already missionaries are going out from these regions. But why not send more? Compared to those from the United States, missionaries originating from the Global South can gain easier access to countries in the 10/40 Window. For instance, Latin American passports can gain access to countries that U.S. and Western European passports can't. It may be time for our churches to embrace the shifting landscape. Rather than sending missionaries from our home country, we can send to the 10/40 Window our brothers and sisters from the Global South.
Embracing Evolving Dynamics
The lives of our U.S. missionaries are no more valuable in God's eyes than our Latin and African brothers and sisters. But the issue is not about danger or ease of passage. This is about wise use of the resources God has given us. Churches in the United States possess wealth unmatched in Christian history. Those vast resources could be effectively used sending U.S. missionaries into the Global South and providing discipleship and theological training to our brothers and sisters in Latin America and Southern Africa. Let's give the churches in the Global South the training, resources, and financing they need to reach the 10/40 Window. Churches in the United States and churches in the Global South can partner together to evangelize the billions of lost souls in regions that need to be evangelized with ferocity.
After decades of taking the lead, we in the Western world may need to take a more supportive role and let our brothers in the South handle the face-to-face evangelism. What matters most is that we work together as a global church to find a way through the 10/40 Window in order to share the gospel with billions of the lost who are not being reached. In the end, what matters most is not who was sent but that God will receive the praise and the glory.